Arthur’s is the latest creative segment in the year-long celebrations which mark 140 years since John James Fenwick opened his stylish store in Northumberland Street, Newcastle, which would go on to become a North East icon, as well as one of the UK’s most-successful department store brands.
His son, Arthur Fenwick, had a lifelong passion for the circus and it’s this sense of wonder and showmanship that’s inspired the celebrations, from fashion collaborations and an exhibition in store to retro foods and pop up events.
And be prepared to dust off your dancing shoes for the latest slice of the celebrations: Arthur’s Restaurant & Music Club.
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Housed in the old Tivoli restaurant, behind the new 140 exhibition, Arthur’s transports you to the decadent days of Great Gatsby with its British racing green hues, chequerboard dance floor, heavy draped curtains, spotlighted signs and tables set like a speakeasy.
Arthur’s will be hosting monthly dining and music events for themed weekends, as well as opulent afternoon teas.
For the launch weekend, the theme was Prohibition and, visiting the site after closing time, it really did feel like we were entering into a speakeasy in 1920s Chicago, instead of a Newcastle department store.
As you’d expect from Fenwick, there’s been no expense spared in transforming this space, from the brightly tinted windows to the specially-made branded carpet leading to Arthur’s which is woven with circus characters and the immaculately-set tables. Style flows this store.
The menu is set according to the theme, with a vegetarian or meat option, and you pre-order ahead of the event.
As we took our seats overlooking the dancefloor and stage by low lamplight, served by staff in black tie, it really did feel like a special event as we enjoyed a themed Prohibition-style cocktail of Classic White Lady Hepple Gin with a rhubarb and blood orange twist.
I’ve had my starter of Waldorf salad before at Fenwick. It’s a simple dish done well, and with its New York roots perfectly tying in with the theme.
My main was a satisfying slab of tender beer-brined breast of chicken with sauteed potatoes, watercress and tarragon, another classy dish.
Dessert again delved into the culinary archives for inspiration with a moreish pineapple upside cake served with spiced rum caramel and a splodge of vanilla cream.
In between courses, we were entertained by the talents of Michael Lamb's Strictly Smokin' Tiny Big Band who worked their way through some classic jazz standards and swing tracks such as Puttin’ on the Ritz and Get Happy and an impressive big band take on more modern hits, such as George Michael’s Careless Whisper.
All the while, flapper girls shimmied and high-kicked on the dance floor – and they’re not the only ones who showed some moves. Diners are also encouraged to dance the night away and take to the floor in this truly elegant affair.